Does long-term involvement in serious mental health cases make much difference? Intuitively, you might think so, but intuition is often wrong in such cases. Turns out this time that's the way it is.
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy has released a study about whether ongoing intensity of mental health services helps much, and concludes that it does:
"The findings presented here are not meant to establish the effectiveness of mental health services. Since this analysis does not include adults with similar characteristics who received no public mental health services, we cannot compare outcomes relative to untreated individuals." But with that caveat: "This analysis does indicate that long-term engagement and retention of public mental health consumers may be an important measure for differentiating outcomes. In addition, these results show a significant level of criminal convictions and subsequent hospitalizations for the study cohort. The public costs of serving individuals in these settings should be considered when monitoring and tracking outcomes for public mental health consumers."
Beyond that, the report has some fascinating background about mental health cases in Washington generally.
The sheer numbers were interesting: In 2008, more than 118,000 people (86,000 of them adults) were in the state public mental health system. Only about 2,200 of them were in the state psychiatric hospitals. The study tracked a specific "cohort" of patients, all receiving mental health services in January 2004. That number: 38,668.